Romantic relationships are quite complex, as are familial bonds. Intense emotions can create volatile situations, which can escalate into arguments, threats, and even physical aggression. Unfortunately, a momentary lapse in judgment or a simple misunderstanding can lead to criminal charges in Texas. If Texas law enforcement has arrested you for domestic violence (formally known as assault against a family member), it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and concerned about how this incident will impact your freedom and future. Many Texans are surprised to know that assault does not always mean physical harm—you can still face charges for making verbal threats against someone. Contact a skilled and experienced Pearland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your situation. In the meantime, let’s take a look at how domestic violence charges typically unfold in Texas and what steps you can take if law enforcement places you under arrest for assault against a family member.
How Texas Domestic Violence Laws Work
Although most people are familiar with the term “domestic violence,” Texas laws use slightly different language to codify these criminal offenses. Essentially, Texas recognizes two types of domestic violence: Dating violence and family violence. Under Title 4, Section 71.0021 of the Texas Family Code, dating violence “means an act, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, by an actor that:
- is committed against a victim or applicant for a protective order:
(A) With whom the actor has or has had a dating relationship; or
(B) Because of the victim’s or applicant’s marriage to or dating relationship with an individual with whom the actor is or has been in a dating relationship or marriage; and
- is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat
that reasonably places the victim or applicant in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury,
assault, or sexual assault.”
According to Title 4, Section 71.004 of the Texas Family Code, family violence refers to “an act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault or that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, assault or sexual assault.” Both of these definitions make it possible for a defendant to face criminal charges for making a verbal threat against someone, even if no actual physical harm occurred.
Criminal Penalties for Misdemeanor Assault Offenses in Texas
Domestic assault carries both misdemeanor and felony penalties. Those with no previous convictions may face a Class A misdemeanor charge, but this charge may be elevated if there are additional or aggravating factors (i.e., assault with a deadly weapon or assault involving serious bodily injury). Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in county jail and up to $4,000 in fines. Additionally, this conviction cannot be sealed, meaning having it on your record may prevent you from owning a firearm, locating a stable job, renting an apartment, obtaining a loan, or gaining custody of your children.
When Domestic Assault Becomes a Felony Offense
An assault against a dating partner or family member can become a felony offense if the defendant has a previous domestic assault conviction. You can also face felony charges if the offense involves strangulation or suffocation. The penalties for a third-degree felony include imprisonment for two to ten years, up to $10,000 in fines, and other limitations on your employment and housing options. Although most felony assault charges involve actual physical harm, the language of the statutes allows prosecutors to bring charges against those who make verbal threats of causing imminent harm to a partner or household member. As long as prosecutors can show that the alleged victim had reason to believe they were in imminent danger, they can move forward with pursuing criminal charges.
Steps to Take When Facing Domestic Assault Charges
It’s essential to understand your rights when Texas law enforcement arrests you for suspected domestic assault. Even though you may be tempted to “explain the situation” or “tell your side of the story,” it’s always in your best interest to remain silent and refrain from making any statements that could be twisted and used to build a case against you. Instead, remain quiet and cooperate with the officers. Contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Together, you can identify the most strategic path forward to have the charges dropped or reduced. Now is not the time to gamble with your future—reach out to a trusted Pearland lawyer right away to ensure your future remains as bright as possible.
If you are facing domestic violence charges in Pearland or Brazoria County, call the Law Offices of Keith G. Allen, PLLC, today at (832) 230-0075 to schedule a free consultation with a trusted and experienced criminal defense lawyer.